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Posts from the ‘horror’ Category


#RIPXIII Classic: Frankenstein


Author: Mary Shelley
Title: Frankenstein
Published: 1818



Shelley uses the classic ‘ 3 act’ structure.
introduction characters and location — conflict — resolution of problem.
Weak point: the re-birth of the ‘fiend’ and
…his discovery of nature, his senses and language.
33 sentences recording the creature’s every movement and or thought. (part 2, pg107).
I just lost interest.
The constant use of “the first person” narrative was numbing.
Deja-vu: death scene page 180 is exactly the same as
…episode #1.1 UK detective series “Broadchurch”.


Audio book:

I read the book while listening to the audio version.
I wanted the full experience.
Narrator: Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) is excellent as Victor Frankenstein.
Unfortunately the voice of ‘the creature, the fiend’ sounded
….like he was constantly on the verge of tears.
…not threatening enough.


Gothic: Frankenstein is an example of this genre.

The Gothic tradition rejected reason, clarity and rational thinking.
It focused heavily on imagination, emotion and extreme passion.
Themes: death (10 people die in the book!), decay, terror, confinement, entrapment.
Main character: (Victor) feels trapped in his own guilt….while shouting for relief and help.
Antagonist (grotesque creature) is confused and isolated.


Literary device: epistolary technique

Letters reveal back round and gives Shelley means to logically end the story.
Letters are a portrait of the soul, confession, mask.
Letters connotate privacy and intimacy.
Letters are used as a ‘frame story‘ (mise-en-abyme) – story within a story.



Shelley is not as skillful in this area. The book is filled with generic descriptions (snow capped mountains, dashing waterfalls,) and she fails to use color to paint a picture of the sun (mentioned 45x), moon (21x) and stars (12x). Shelley’s favorite colors promote the gothic mood of darkness (black 17x) and light (white 11x)



I could only find one symbol.
Ice (mentioned 41x) – represents Victor’s fate.
The creature leaves him a message:
“Follow me; I seek the everlasting ices of the north,
…where you will feel the misery of cold and frost…”



I was not impressed with this novel.
It does have its lyrical moments…..but lacked gravitas.
Weak point: too much dull, stolid repetition of same words
…instead of lively, fleet narration.
repetitive: fiend (33x), guilt/guilty/guilt-ridden (27x), abhor (17x) and I/he/she/it found (89x)
Weak point:
Shelley describes nature, moon, stars, sun (sun,sunshine,sunset 60x)
…mist, storms, Mont Blanc, glaciers, sea, waves
…lakes, rocks, wind, Alps, Valley Chamounix… etc ad nausem.
Pages and pages with descriptions of wanderings
… of Victor and the creature.
It feels like ‘book-stuffing.
It just gets to be a bit too much. (Pages 94 – 103 are examples)
Strong point: This book is an amazing achievement
…for a young 19 year old woman, non-writer, failed poet in 19th C literary scene.
If you want a great gothic….read Dracula and leave this one on the shelf.


R.I.P. Readers Imbibing Peril



The R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril challenge, otherwise known as R.I.P. takes place every September 1st through October 31st.

The purpose of the R.I.P. challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, or Supernatural.

There are multiple levels of participation (Perils):

  • Peril the First – Read four books, any length, that fit the definition of R.I.P. literature.
  • Peril the Second – Read two books of any length.
  • Peril the Third – This Peril involves reading one book.
  • Peril of the Short Story – You can read short stories any time during the challenge.
  • Peril on the Screen – This is for those of us who like to watch suitably scary, eerie, mysterious, gothic fare during this time of year. It may be something on the small screen or large.
  • Peril of the Review – Submit a short review of any book you read.


This year I will do

  1. Peril the First
  2. Peril of the Short Story
  3. Peril of the Review if I find some time.
  4. All my selections are from my TBR that I am trying desperately to reduce.
  5. These are all potential reads….it all depends on my ‘spooky’ mood.
  6. Hashtag:  #RIPXIII


My list:

  1. HawthorneHenry James  – READ (essay)
  2. Frankenstein – M. Shelley – READ (Gothic novel)
  3. Dark EntriesR. AickmanREAD (short stories)
  4. The Raven – E. A. Poe –  READ (poem)
  5. Aletheia – J.S. Breukelaar – READ (horror)



Aurealis Award Best Horror Novel 2017 short list


  1. Well, I’m still looking for horror!
  2. I read the winner of the
  3. Aurealis Award Best Horror Novel 2017
  4. Soon and was mildly impressed.
  5. Now I have decided to look further….on the short list.
  6. I found Aletheia by J.S. Breukelaar
  7. The name has potential….but is it horrific?
  8. I have never heard of the author but according to
  9. …some comment I saw this book is
  10. a demanding story that will grip the reader and
  11. …hold them relentlessly until the end.
  12. Does the book drip strangeness?
  13. I will put the book to the test!


Feedback:  response to comment by Tracy at  Bitter Tea and Mystery

Tracy, I was just like you…Horror, avoid at all costs.
Now I have found that horror is not only slasher narratives with blood dripping from chainsaws!
It is creating with language and imagery an unsettling tense feeling as to what is yet to come.
There are different sorts of horror gothic –Dracula-  and Supernatural –Aletheia- non-supernatural. This category includes frightening crime or mystery stories. I read Lemaitre’s –Alex- ..and was frightened to death by rats attacking a victim! Tracy, perhaps you are reading horror and didn’t realize it!



  1. Aletheia is the Greek goddess of truth… Roman name Veritas.
  2. In this book Aletheia refers not so much to the truth.
  3. …but how you find it.”


Genre:  supernatural horror

  1. Breukelaar uses phrases that create a creepy unsettling air.
  2. Strong point being the imagery and personification of the lake.
  3. The one of the best ‘horror’ chapters was  ch 16 Dark Wind.
  4. Lee faces the supernatural unknown he feels on the lake.
  5. What do you want?  And the lake doesn’t answer,
  6. …but somethig else does.”


Theme:  fear

  1. Find the blind spot…what they refuse to see is what they are afraid of.
  2. What do the men refuse to see? (Lee – Doc – Frankie)
  3. What must the women do?
  4. Thettie  must find room to ‘move in their blind spot’
  5. Bryce: blinded in one eye…yet she saw everyone’s fears.


  1. Motif – tongue  (reptilian, poisonous, death)
  2. Vernon’s tongue-tip flicked out (ch1)
  3. – a black tongue of lake water (ch 5)
  4. – …licked the glass of the dream-window
  5. – the black dream tongue fading…(ch 9)
  6. – a tongue dragged itself along the steamy
  7. – inside of the window… (10)
  8. black tongues of lake….lap hungrily at the side of the canoe (ch 16)
  9. This is a great horror effect!


  1. Motif  – triangle  (fate)
  2. I found one quote that perhaps is the idea behind the form:
  3. “…a triangulation that finally began to make sense.
  4. Geometry is fate.” (ch 13)
  5. Place names:
  6. Triangle Gully, Triangle Bridge, Triangle Creek Triangle Falls
  7. business triangles: Homer with a rifle – a dirt-colored shack – pails for the dogs
  8. love triangles – Archy – Bryce – Grif
  9. guilt triangles – Frankie – Thettie – Doc
  10. child/mother triangles –  Archy – Thettie – Grif
  11. This brings tension….someone will be left out
  12. but who?


  1. Motif – eye    (evil eye?)
  2. Many references to eye – fish hook
  3. Bryce catches ‘baby’ – doll on fishing line —-fish hook in eye.
  4. Lee’s son draws a howling mutation (in lake?) and his
  5. mother crayon in a burning star in its dead eye.
  6. Bryce: one-eye water rat
  7. Lee began to move off, but the
  8. …amber slice in her (Bryce) eye held him in place.
  9. Bryce: wore an eye patch that “seemed to eat up the all the light”
  10. There are many more references
  11. …..try to find them!


HOOK:   What hooked me?

  1. I cannot pinpoint one specific moment in the first
  2. few chapters that I can say ‘hooked’ me.
  3. Of course the ‘shock and awe’ of the first sentence
  4. ….but there must be more. 
  5. I wasn’t interested in reading the book in the first place
  6. ….but wanted to investigate the shortlist
  7. …Aurealis Prize Best Horror Novel  2017.
  8. The fact that I kept reading
  9. ….because of the quality of the writing is the hook.
  10. If you can keep ME interested in a horror book
  11. …then you must be doing something right
  12. ….#Bravo  J.M. Breuklaar



  1. J.S. Breukelaar is a master of foreshadowing.
  2. She made her plot clues subtle and for this reader
  3. ….apparent during a re-reading!
  4. The author wants to build suspense.
  5. I tried to read very carefully and the book is intricately plotted.
  6. I had to read 10 chapters…then re-read/skim them
  7. to pick up on what I had missed the first time around.
  8. Once I had a grasp of the basic conflicts
  9. ….reading was much smoother…and creepier!



  1. Breukelaar personifies the lake
  2. ..whenever she can giving it a  horror-touch:
  3. …the lake jumped at her between the houses.
  4. …a black tongue of the lake licked her heel.
  5. …the lake winked between the trees.
  6. crouched waiting for the unrisen sun.
  7. shrank from a rascally moon.
  8. …(weed) the lake sucked it in.



  1. Lee:  obsessed with the lake after his son was
  2. …killed and parts of body thrown in lake (horror)
  3. “Death is not the end, neither for the dead
  4. nor those they leave behind.” (ch14)
  5. Thettie: obsessed with guilt from the past
  6. “I got to make things right….” (ch 13)
  7. Bryce:  ….she is not what she seems!



  1. Breukelaar used a chewy setting
  2. …something she could set her teeth into!
  3. Breukelaar  uses personification 
  4. the lake jumped, winked,
  5. licked at her heels.
  6. She used all the features of the lake
  7. the lake oozed and spread, cold, dark and indestructible
  8. ….black tongue of lake water licked her heel
  9. to increase the creepy unsettling  feelings in the story.
  10. What is the hungry nameless thing in the lake?
  11. I was fascinated by a lake…..that came to life!


Tone:  creepy

  1. Breukelaar created a very wierd 
  2. …creepy world in the Pennsylvania back country.
  3. “The lake flushed purple, bruised by its own loveliness
  4. ….leaves dripped bloody from the trees.
  5. Lee looks through shards of glass…
  6. …like seeing the world through alien tears (ch 6)
  7. Breukelaar shows ….does not tell.
  8. She uses the sense of smell (80x) to prickle the reader’s imagination.
  9. …the metallic smell of the lake, smell of burnt wiring, burned waffels,
  10. her breath smells like cocoa and some kind of vegetable,
  11. the smell of iodine-soaked bandage.


Tension:  …every page tingles with tension!

  1. I was mesmerized by the character’s
  2. …thoughts of obsessions and death wishes.
  3. For example:
  4. This is Lee’s obsession….to probe the lake until he finds his son.
  5. Lee’s death wish “…the only way to beat the monster
  6. …is to join it.” (ch 16)
  7. Throughout the book I kept wondering
  8. …will good triumph over evil…or NOT!


Conclusion:     Mainstream fiction or horror fiction?

  1. I was surprised to find in J.S. Breukelaar’s  horror novel
  2. superior writing and great emotional depth (example ch 11).
  3. My preconceptions that horror is
  4. …less than mainstream fiction are gone forever!
  5. The horror writer wants us to expand our imagination with images.
  6. Best image… was the island in the middle of the lake.
  7. I had to admire how creative Breukelaar is!
  8. “Island was a bugger sneezed out in nostril shape
  9. …with nose-hair foliage.” (ch 2)

Last Thoughts:


  1. With all due respect to  people who know how to judge literature…
  2. I would like to see the jury report of
  3. …Aurealis Awards Best Horror Novel 2017.
  4. I read the winner Soon by Lois Murphy and Aletheia short listed.
  5. As a reader J.S. Breukelaar’s novel should have won!
  6. #MustRead….really a must! 


What is the most important difference between Soon and Aletheia ?

  1. While reading Aletheia
  2. I was constantly asking myself questions.
  3. …which plot twist do I think is coming next?
  4. While reading Soon
  5. ….my imagination was not aroused
  6. ….nothing in the book
  7. spurred me on to think with the author.
  8. This is what I mean when I say that  Soon did not engage me
  9. …but Aletheia did!
  10. Wonderful reading experience….that you should not miss!